“Two-nil, Two-nil, Two-nil, Two-nil….”

You know how it goes – sung to the tune of Amazing Grace. Australia has taken a two nil lead in the series against Sri Lanka and has thereby secured the series. The current series also sees Australia improve their standing on the ICC World Test Championship table (in case anyone cares) with New Zealand at least squaring and possibly winning their home series against South Africa.

The series thus far against Sri Lanka has had everything. Two come backs from behind by Australia. The Murali and Warne show as they cut and thrust their way in the race to 500 wickets and now the world record. Surely, Warne has exceeded all expectations. And the second Test was even more enthralling than the first, with the pendulum swinging on a daily basis. On each full day, both teams held sway at some stage in proceedings. Even at the start of the final day, the match was evenly poised, with Australia needing 3 wickets and Sri Lanka requiring 51 runs for victory.

The first Test was interesting but it was played in two parts – Sri Lanka dominated the first two days and it was all Australia from there. But there were some similarities. Sri Lanka had significant first innings leads on both occasions. In fact, when the lead is expressed as a percentage of Australia’s first innings score, the leads were 73% and 76% respectively. And in both tests, Australia was able to wipe off the first inning deficit with eight wickets still in hand.

Warne is the hero thus far. He has been the difference between Australia winning and losing. And credit to Damien Martyn – he came into the series under great external pressure and has performed admirably against the spin he has struggled against so often. His second innings in the 2nd Test (and 1st for that matter) was vital in setting winning targets.

And another big raspberry for the Symonds trial. I’m a big fan of him in the ODI arena but if Roy is selected for the third test ahead of The Kat, something is seriously wrong. Word is that the pitch has some bounce and that Tricky Ricky might play three seamers, in which case Katich will be selected based on previous comments.

And congratulations to Ponting who has won his first two tests as captain and in fact, his first series. Something that Border, Taylor and Waugh could not do. Even the great Bradman lost his first two tests as captain (on “sticky wickets”) before eventually winning the series.

And speaking of two-nil, England has gone two up and taken an unassailable lead in the Caribbean. Big Steve Harmison was in the thick of it again with 6-61 in the Windies first dig (this followed his 7-12 in the 1st Test). The hearts and hopes of the English would also have been warmed by a couple of class players on the comeback trail – Thorpe scored 90 in England’s first innings of 319 and Simon Jones took 5-75 in the Windies second innings. I suppose England is thinking to themselves something like “If only we were taking on the Aussies now, we’d kill ’em. That’s what.” Anyway, dream on – we have just over 12 months to wait and we’ll see what happens.

I mentioned earlier that New Zealand has gone one up by beating South Africa by nine wickets at Auckland. Not bad, considering that South Africa was 0-177 just before tea on the first day! Man of the match was Chris Martin, who took 11 wickets for the match and routed South Africa on the second day. Other stars were Scott Styris (170 from 220 balls), Chris Cairns (158 from 171 balls including 7 sixes) and Jacob Oram (90 from 134 balls, following his 1st Test century). It’s not a bad lower order batting when you consider that Cairns and Oram batted at seven and eight! Cairns also became the sixth man, and second New Zealander (Sir Dick being the other) to take 200 wickets and score 3000 test runs.

In the ODI series in Pakistan, India and Pakistan are locked at 2-2, with the decider to be played in Lahore later tonight.

The third Test between Australia and Sri Lanka starts later today (at 3:30 pm AEST).

(Unfortunately, it may have already started by the time you receive this as our office email is down.)

Bloody murder!

Sri Lanka has taken the initiative on the first morning of day 2. The pitch has settled and Sri Lanka did take advantage – they left it to the last wicket but they made hey for 14 painful overs for the Aussies. Overs that cost 79 runs for the last wicket. There must have been some relief when Murali strode to the wicket with Sri Lanka just 12 in front – he did make a pair last Test and the end should have been near. Murali proceeded to club 43 from 28 balls while Vaas kept the board ticking at the other end. Murali put Warne, Kasper and MacGill over the fence in a defiant display. Final score was 211 with Vaas unbeaten on 68.

Warne finished with 5/65, Kasper 4/83.

The lead is a very healthy 91. This match will have a result, barring rain and Sri Lanka are well placed.

That being said, Australia could be expected, and will need to, make a very large score.

At lunch, Australia is 0/8. Vaas has bowled two maidens to Langer and Murali, who opened at the other has been hit for a couple of rope shots by Hayden.

What a novelty – a sporting pitch!

A day of carnage has seen 17 wickets fall for just 212 runs in 82.2 overs possible at the 2nd Test in Kandy. The bowlers are getting some significant assistance from the pitch and what a welcome change!

The past summer has been pretty a much a non-stop run feast on benign pitches so it is little wonder the Aussie’s were caught out on what is not a bad track, but could be called “fresh”.

Ponting won the toss and boldly decided to bat. It took me back to day one of the 1997 Ashes series when Tubby batted on a real green top. I think we made 117 on that occasion. Hayden offered the only real resistance with 54 while Warne was next best with 18. Gillie made another duck as his average plummets and his PWC rating is in free fall.

Murali took four wickets and in doing so brought up Test wicket number 500. More importantly for Sri Lanka, Zoysa, the big left armer moved the ball around and took four of the top seven wickets.

At the end of the day, the match is evenly poised, with Australia possibly in front, with Sri Lanka at 7/92. Kasper went through the top order with three wickets and Warne has taken the last three, continuing his fine come back with 3/15. He removed first Test century maker, Dilshan, for a golden duck. Warne’s 18 with the bat may yet be significant if the match continues in the way it has started. His 18 was second top score for Australia and no Sri Lankan has managed to reach such giddy heights as yet.

Sri Lanka’s hopes for this innings lie with Vaas – he can handle a bat and has made 16. That aside, the last three on both sides have not contributed thus far in the series. One suspects that the pitch might dry out and play better over the next two days. How much will it improve for the start of day two and if it is significantly better, can Sri Lanka take advantage?

Footnote: Pakistan and India had their second ODI match up. Once again, both teams scored well over 300 runs. This time it was Pakistan holding on for a 12 run victory. MOTM once again came from the loosing team with Tendulkar hitting 141 and in doing so passed 13000 ODI runs. Now that is mind-numbing!

Australia in big trouble at lunch

After a steady start in the 2nd Test at Kandy, Australia has limped to lunch at 4/61. Much lies with Hayden, who survives on 36 and Symonds, 1. Batsmen dimissed are Langer 3 (from 39 balls), Ponting 10, Martyn 1 and Lehman 8. And much will depend on Gillie – can he deliver?

No catching has been required with 3 lbws and 1 bowled. Murali has one wicket with three falling to the seamers.

I can’t but help thinking Australia have made a blunder taking the same team into this match. The pitch has much more life and I think Williams for MacGill and Katich for Symonds would have been good changes. I still can’t believe that Katich has been left out after his wonderful summer.